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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

Abstract

KIMEMIA, D K  and  VAN NIEKERK, A. Energy poverty, shack fires and childhood burns. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2017, vol.107, n.4, pp.289-291. ISSN 2078-5135.  http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/samj.2017.v107i4.12436.

Burn injuries are a persisting challenge in South Africa. Energy poverty, prevalent in under-resourced communities, is a key contributor to the problem. The energy-poor rely on solid fuels and flammable hydrocarbons, such as paraffin, for energy services. The fuels are burnt in inefficient, leaky and unstable appliances, leading to health losses from pollutant emissions, burns, and conflagrations. Within cramped informal home settings, using flammable fuels and risky combustion technologies, the situation can become devastating, especially for young children. Those who survive fiery incidents have to contend with trauma and property losses that may lead to further impoverishment. Proactive intervention strategies are required and should include the broadening of access to safe and sustainable energy. We advocate greater enforcement of home appliance standards and targeted support for the distribution of proven alternative energy technologies, such as liquefied petroleum gas and solar power. Support and advocacy from professional and citizen groups would be necessary to ensure that government prioritises the safe energy requirements of poor citizens.

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